While the region’s housing crunch isn’t going away anytime soon, several recent events show the North Coast’s leaders are taking strategic steps to confront it, regionally and in individual cities.
Last week, for instance, Clatsop County commissioners and Seaside city councilors each made an impactful decision to join a $100,000 regional housing study. The comprehensive study can now proceed and will help all involved understand the type, size, location and price of housing that the county needs. Seaside joined Astoria, Warrenton, Gearhart and Cannon Beach, each signing on with a $10,000 pledge, and the county agreed to foot the remaining $50,000. The report will be modeled after a study previously conducted in Tillamook County and its recommendations have been credited with helping its leaders address some of the same housing issues.
The regional initiative is an outcome of a rare, but much needed summit on housing that came at the urging of County Manager Cameron Moore. Although some may question why the study is needed when each city has conducted other studies of their own, none have had a broad, birds-eye view of the situation across the entire region. Taking a regional approach makes perfect sense because individual cities can develop strategies with a better picture of the overall region in mind. It also comes at a comparatively bargain price for each.
As Jason Schermerhorn, the interim city manager for Cannon Beach, said, “It’s not just a problem in this county, it’s statewide. Being involved will help us have a broader idea on how to handle it.”
At the same Seaside meeting, city councilors also agreed to study system development charges, which are large fees developers pay the city to connect to essential services like water and utilities. Developers often cite those charges as an impediment to housing growth, and the fees in Seaside haven’t been reviewed since 2008. Much has changed since then with increased housing demand, infrastructure changes and population growth.
And in Warrenton, which has land available even with some 500 housing units either under construction or in the permitting stages, city commissioners decided to raise building permit and planning review fees, but only slightly with an average increase of $57 per house. They also have given indications they may look at Warrenton’s system development charges to ensure they aren’t a barrier.
None of the actions are a solution to the crunch, but reflect movement rather than complacency. For the momentum to continue — and it must to find solutions — it’s vitally important that once the comprehensive study and the other reviews are completed that they don’t just sit on a shelf like old books gathering dust. The recommendations will need close study to determine what best can be done, and each city must continue taking steps to remove barriers that may prevent solutions from rising.